(Sample Material) IAS Mains Sociology (Optional) Study Kit "Social Movements In Modern India"

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains Sociology Study Kit

Subject: Sociology (Optional)

Topic: Social Movements In Modern India

Peasants And Farmers’ Movements

Kisan Sabha, Telengana And Naxalbari

Peasant movements occupy an important place in the history of social unrest in India though the aims and objectives of these movements differ in nature and degree from region to region.
It is in this sense that these movements also aimed at the unification of the peasants of a region, development of leadership, ideology and a peasant elite. Through these movements emerged a new power structure and peasant alliance. The genesis of peasant movements rests in the relationship patterns of different social categories existing within the framework of feudal and semifeudal structure of our society. Recent movements created a stir in the total relationship pattern of a community or society. The peasant movement developed resistance to the act of suppression by landlords and brought unification among the peasants. Peasant movements are movements of a category exhibiting the characteristics of social movements in general as well as some general characteristics of their own. The peasant movements do not take into account the whole society or even the whole community. The participants in such movements are mainly peasants but the non-cultivator groups align with them for their own benefit or for the benefit of the peasants through which they gain. Though these movements develop their own leadership from the peasant ranks they end to get leadership from city elites as well. Parth Nath Mukherji has made a study of Naxalbari movement and the Peasant Revolt in North Bengal in Darjeeling District and the regions are Phansidewa, Naxalbari and Khoribuari. There are both tea plantations and paddy cultivation. He analyses the peasant uprising against the background of the communist movement in India.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)

which itself was born in 1964 when it split from the Communist Party of India developed two strands: one which argued that the situation in India was not yet ripe for revolution and the other led by a most articulate group of Siliguri sub-division of Darjeeling district under the leadership of Charu Majumdar. Ideological pressures for radicalization of CPI (M) politics were exerted by the Darjeeling District Committee. Even among the radicals there were those who favoured participation in the elections while the others proposed to shun the elections and socialize the masses against it. The former held to the primacy of the land problem and recommended mass struggles to solve it.

The Naxalbari peasant movement is related to the Tebhanga movement of Bengal where the Bengali weavers were exploited. Over a period of time, numerous struggles against such exploitation led to the emergence of Krishak Sabha. But such movements also suffered from various weaknesses.

The weakness of the movement was, there were two kinds of leadership. On the one hand, there was the urban-based leadership which claimed superior knowledge and status with regard to the manner in which the movement should be conducted. Among the rural leaders there were the indigenous rural leaders (e.g. Punjab, Rao Naresh Aich) and co-opted rural leaders like Kanu Sanyal, Panchang Sarkar, and urban leaders like Charu Majumdar. When most of the rural leaders were in prison the leadership passed into the hands of the urban leaders who were interested in systemic changes rather than a mere just redistribution of the produce. Charu Majumdar shifted the focus from narrow economic demands to capture of power. He wanted the annihilation of class enemies which in effect was indistinguishable from secret assassinations. As a result he drove the movement underground.

Ranga Rao made a study of the Peasant Movement in Telengana based on both secondary sources and fieldwork. He places the Communistled peasant movement in the wider context of other social movements which sprang up in Telengana in the beginning of the 20th century. The Telugu Literary Movement introduced ideas of renaissance and was against the Nizam’s establishment. Under the influence of the Indian National Congress and the Arya Samaj the Telengana elite gave a new direction to the activities of the Andhra Mahasabha in the 1930. They mobilized the public for the abolition of forced labour, untouchability and other social evils. They also demanded equal educational and economic opportunities and equal political representation for the Hindus.

The peasant movement in Telengana brings out one interesting point that it is not enough if economic conditions are ripe for such a movement. Narayana Reddy says that while similar conditions prevailed in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan it was the added presence of the Nizam as a ruler from a minority religious group, lack of civil and religious liberties and a lack of correct understanding of the socio­economic situation prevailing in Hyderabad State by Communists that helped a Movement to develop. Ranga Rao adds that it was other structural factors like improvement in the economic and social conditions of the people followed by a period of reversal and oppression that made the peasants, rich and poor take part in the campaign of non-co-operation against the Nizam’s government under the collective leadership of the Congress, the Communist Parties and the Andhra Mahasabha.

Many of these movements have also been changed over time and exist today in some form or the other in some places of India. These movement did not have a solid and unified aim all over India and hence its nature and struggle was also different from region to region.


Unrest due to discontentment in relationship based on agricultural mode of production has been popular in India since the beginning of British period. Unrest usually occurs when social relationship is based on exploitation of the larger community by a few dominant groups and results into conflicts and contradictions.

The causes of these great conflicts and tensions have to be located in the rapid structural transformation of rural society. Some of them have a historically progressive liberating influence, some others may work as a reactionary break on social progress. The peasant movements in India and its roots are to be traced not only in Indian soil but also the kind of impact that have had the Indian peasants from other European countries.

These movements occurred in the then prevailing socio-cultural political milieu. At that time the Kisan movement occurred in India only after the Kisans began to develop political consciousness, take part in organisations under their own flag and programme, and organised struggles for the fulfilment of that programme under their own leadership.

There had taken place before 1918, a number of peasant movements which were spontaneous, sporadic and were having limited and economic aims. Severe famines and economic depression led to occasional Kisan struggles against the zamindars, money-lenders and Government.

The slump in cotton prices after the end of the Civil War in America hit the Indian Kisans hard. Their debt burden as a result became very heavy and in the Deccan in 1875, the Maratha peasants rose against the moneylenders, who with the aid of courts, threatened them with eviction. They raided the houses of moneylenders, destroyed documents of debts and even killed some of them. The riot was quelled. The government, however, recognised the necessity of relief to the peasants and passed the Deccan Agriculturists Relief Act in 1879.

A revolt of the peasants threatened with loss of their land to the moneylenders, took place in the Punjab in the last decade of the mowfeenth century. To ease the situation, the Government enacted the Punjab Alienation Act in 1902-03. During the time of Lord Curzon the resolution of the Government of India of Land Revenue Policy was adopted, aiming at protecting the tenants from the heavy pressure of the demands of the Zamindars.

The Indian Congress did not lay much for peasants’ relief as it did on the Indian industrialists. In 1917, Gandhi led the Champaran peasants’ movement in Bihar. This is where he utilized his Satyagraha method.

The Moplah Rebellion of 1922 had both communal and economic roots. The economic discontent of the Moplahs, who were mainly Muslim agriculturists intensely exploited by the Nambudris who were Brahmin landlords in Malabar, was canalised by the Muslim communalists into communal channels with the result that a revolt, predominantly economic in content but religious in form, broke out, leading to tragic loss of life and property.

It frequently happened in India, where the Hindus were landlords and the Muslims were peasants. Often due to instigation of communalists economic class conflict between them assumed communal forms.

Ryots’ association and agricultural and labour unions were formed in Andhra in 1923. Kisan Sabhas were started in some parts of the Punjab, Bengal and Uttar Pradesh in 1926-27. In 1928, representatives of the Uttar Pradesh and Bihar Kisan Sabhas presented a memorandum to the All Parties Conference presided over by Nehru, which embodied such demands as universal franchise, fundamental democratic rights and national independence.

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